Hamilton Sharpe and the Electoral College

Hamilton W. Sharpe, pioneer settler of Lowndes county, post master and proprietor of Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, was a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA (Ray City and most of Berrien County then being a part of Lowndes.)

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe, Lowndes County, GA was selected in 1852 as representative to the Electoral College for presidential candidate Daniel Webster.

Hamilton W. Sharpe, although a Whig in politics declined to support the party’s nominee, Winfield Scott, in the Presidential Election of 1852.  While loyal Whigs like Judge Lott Warren, General Eli Warren, and Judge James Jackson Scarborough were all attending the 1852 Scott Convention in Macon, GA,  Hamilton Sharpe was across town, supporting third party candidate Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, and vice presidential candidate Charles J. Jenkins, of Georgia.  Hamilton W. Sharpe was selected at the Third Party Convention as the  electoral college representative from Georgia’s 1st Congressional district.

1852 Political Cartoon. Third party candidate Daniel Webster challenges Winfield Scott and Franklin Pierce for the presidency of the United States.

1852 Political Cartoon. Third party candidate Daniel Webster challenges Winfield Scott and Franklin Pierce for the presidency of the United States.

Seventeen years earlier, at the 1835 Independence Day celebration at Franklinville, GA, Hamilton Sharpe, Levi J. Knight and others had joined a chorus of prominent Lowndes County citizens denouncing the actions of President Andrew Jackson and toasting the right of states to nullify federal law. Now Sharpe would vote for one of Jackson’s strongest supporters.

Georgia’s third party convention was widely reported in state and national newspapers.

Louisville Daily Democrat
August 25, 1852

Macon, (Ga.,) Aug. 18, 1852.
The Scott convention met here to-day. William B. Fleming, of Savannah, was chosen President. No joint nomination having been agreed to by the committee of the conference with the Webster committee, the convention appointed an electoral ticket and adjourned sine die.

Macon, (Ga.,) Aug. 18, 1852.
The third candidate convention met according to adjournment. The committee of twenty four reported through it chairman, R. P. Trippe, that there was no way through which a union with the Scott convention could be effected, and recommended the nomination of candidates for President and Vice President other than those now before the people. They reported the platform of the whig party as the platform of the third candidate party, and an electoral ticket as follows.
H. H. Cummings, of Richmond, and Edward T. Hill, of Troupe, for the State at large.
First District – Hamilton W. Shape, of Thomas.
Second District – Wm. M. Brown, of Marion.
Third District – Washington Pope, of Bibb.
Fourth District – Blunt C. Forrell, of Troupe.
Fifth District – Warren Aiken, of Cass.
Sixth District – Y. L. G. Davis, of Clarke.
Seventh District – John G. Floyd, of Newton.
Eighth District – Philip S. Semle, of Jefferson.
They also reported to support Daniel Webster for President, and Charles J. Jenkins for Vice President.
The report was unanimously adopted, and the following executive committee was appointed:
James T. Nisbett, of Bibb; W. S. Norman, of Monroe; Gen. B. H. Rutherford, of Bibb; R. M. Orme, of Baldwin; Thomas H. Pollhill, of Jefferson; Stephen F. Miller, of Macon; T. C. Sullivan, of Sumter; P. W. Alexander, of Chatham; Charles Turner, of Pike; W. S. Jones of Richmond; C. A. Cloud, of Chatham.
After the adoption of several unimportant resolutions, the convention adjourned.

Webster had been a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson and had opposed the nullification strategy of state’s rights supporters.

In December 1832, Jackson issued the Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, warning that he would not allow South Carolina to defy federal law. Webster strongly approved of the Proclamation, telling an audience at Faneuil Hall that Jackson had articulated “the true principles of the Constitution,” and that he would give the president “my entire and cordial support” in the Nullification crisis. He strongly supported Jackson’s proposed Force Bill, which would authorize the president to use force against states that attempted to obstruct federal law.

Webster had been a long-standing opponent of slavery; in an 1837 speech he called slavery a “great moral, social, and political evil,” and added that he would vote against “any thing that shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add other slaveholding states to the Union. But, unlike his more strongly anti-slavery constituents, … “Cotton Whigs” like Webster, …emphasized good relations with Southern leaders.  He did not believe that Congress should interfere with slavery in the states.  

After the Mexican-American War Webster voted against the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which the United States acquired the Mexican Cession, not because of objection to the potential expansion of slavery into the territories, but because he was strongly opposed to any acquisition of Mexican territory at all  (with the exception of San Francisco). Webster became a prominent supporter of the Compromise of 1850 which allowed the people of each territory to decide whether or not slavery would be permitted. The compromise also included a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  Southern Whigs called the law “the Act for the recovery of fugitives from labor.” In the North, it became the most controversial portion of the Compromise of 1850, and Webster became closely involved in enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law.

Disputes over fugitive slaves were widely publicized North and South, inflaming passions and raising tensions in the aftermath of the Compromise of 1850. Many of the administration’s prosecutions or attempts to return slaves ended badly. 

One such case was that of Thomas Sims, an African American who escaped from slavery in Georgia and fled to Boston, Massachusetts in 1851. He was arrested the same year under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, had a court hearing, and was forced to return to enslavement. Sims was one of the first slaves to be forcibly returned from Boston under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The failure to stop his case from progressing was a significant blow to the abolitionists, as it showed the extent of the power and influence which slavery had on American society and politics. On April 13, Sims was marched down to a ship and returned to Georgia under military protection. Sims exclaimed that he would rather be killed and asked for a knife multiple times. Many people marched in solidarity with Sims to the wharf.  Upon his return to Savannah, Sims was publicly whipped 39 times and sold in a slave auction to a new owner in Mississippi.  – wikipedia

The full resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852 were printed in the Savannah Republican, August 20, 1852.

Resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852. Hamilton W. Sharpe, of Lowndes County, GA was selected for the party's ticket for the Electoral College.

Resolutions of the Georgia Third Party Convention of 1852. Hamilton W. Sharpe, of Lowndes County, GA was selected for the party’s ticket for the Electoral College.

Sharpe’s hopes for a third party victory in the election of 1852 were dashed when Daniel Webster died October 24, 1852, nine days before the election.

On a positive epilogue,  Thomas Sims eventually escaped enslavement again, and returned to Boston in 1863. In 1877 he received an appointment to a position in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Related Posted:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.